Volleyball drops two of three to open season


Redshirt junior Stephanie Williams delivered the Panthers their only win of the weekend with a service ace on match point Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Anna Bongardino | Assistant Visual Editor)

After making it to their first NCAA Tournament since 2004 last fall, the Pitt women’s volleyball team began its 2017 season by traveling to Seattle to take part in the Husky Invitational.

In their three games over the weekend, the Panthers (1-2) struggled to play error-free volleyball and squandered the opportunity to pick up a few signature wins. Even in its five-set win over the St. Mary’s Gaels, the team played somewhat sloppily, and head coach Dan Fisher will need to make sure it gets corrected by the beginning of ACC play.

“[Putting balls away] is something we’ve been struggling with this whole weekend but the story of the match was us sticking together as a team and finding a way,” Fisher said in a press release.


The Panthers had a tall task in their opening match of the season Friday night, taking on No. 3 Washington Huskies. The Huskies dominated throughout the entire match, defending their home court and sweeping the Panthers, 3-0.

The two teams came out and matched each other early, reaching an 8-8 tie early in the first set. The Panthers slowly lost ground on the Huskies from there, committing nine errors, with the Huskies taking the set 25-17.

In the most competitive part of the match, the Panthers managed to keep the second set close despite continuing their poor play.

After battling to an 11-11 tie, the Panthers reeled off four straight points to take a 15-11 lead. Keeping up the pressure with strong serving, they extended their advantage to seven at 21-14 and seemed to have the set in hand.

But the Huskies rebounded, capitalizing off five Panther errors to win eight of the next nine points, tying the set at 22.  

Despite coughing up a big lead, the Panthers managed to take the next two points and earn a set point at 24-22. They couldn’t capitalize though, as the Huskies seized control of the match by taking the next four points to win the set and go up 2-0 in the match.

Riding the momentum of their second set win, the Huskies dominated the third set. The result was the most lopsided set of the match, with the Huskies crushing the Panthers, 25-16, to win the game 3-0 and hand the Panthers their first loss of the season.


The Panthers returned to Alaska Airlines Arena Saturday morning for a match against another ranked opponent, the No. 9 Creighton Bluejays, again falling short by a score of three sets to none.

In the opening set, the Panthers found themselves in a hole, going down 14-8. The team quickly responded though, winning the next six points to tie it at 14 apiece. From there, the Blue Jays retook control and slowly built up a lead on the Panthers, taking the set 25-19.

The second set was a much more even affair, as neither team could gain much separation from the other. With the score tied at 16, the Blue Jays won three straight points to gain a 19-16 lead and looked to go up two sets.

Pitt responded, surging to take a 22-20 lead, but Creighton was the better team down the stretch, going on to take the second set 25-22.

Like Friday, the Panthers didn’t put up much of the a fight in the third set, as Creighton went on a 12-2 run to take a quick 16-7 lead. And despite a strong five-kill set from freshman Kayla Lund, the Panthers were overmatched as the Blue Jays took the third set 25-17 to send the Panthers to 0-2.

Saint Mary’s

In their final game of the Invitational against St. Mary’s, the Panthers were able to overcome their sloppy play to win their first match of the season in a five-set thriller.

The two teams were very evenly matched in the early portions of the game, but the Panthers were able to escape with the first set, winning 25-22 behind sophomore Nika Markovic’s eight kills.

Riding its momentum, Pitt came out strong in the second set and grabbed a 13-7 lead. The Gaels came back though, reeling off six straight points to tie it up at 13.

The two sides traded blows in the middle part of the set, splitting the next 16 points to make it 21-21. This time, it was the Gaels who were able to pull out the set, winning four of the next five points to take the second set 25-22.

Tied at one set apiece, the Panthers went down early in the third set but quickly rallied to tie it at eight. Later on, with the score tied at 16, they grabbed four straight points to take control, winning the set 25-22 with an ace from junior Angela Seman.

With a chance to take the match with a fourth-set win, the Panthers ran out to a 9-4 lead. The Gaels quickly got back in it, though, taking advantage of multiple Panther errors to tie things up at 12.

St. Mary’s then won five of the next seven points and maintained their edge for the rest of the set, forcing a match-deciding fifth set.

Despite only hitting nine kills in the match, redshirt junior Stephanie Williams made all the difference in the end. The two teams remained close the entire time, but, facing a three-point deficit at 13-10, the Panthers were just two points away from defeat.

Following a kill from Markovic, the Panthers scored on a St. Mary’s error and a Williams kill to tie the match at 13. After losing the next point, the Panthers fought off the Gaels with two straight kills from Williams to take a 15-14 lead.

Coughing up their match point with an error, another Williams kill put the Panthers up 16-15 with an opportunity to serve for the match. Stepping to the back line with the ball in her hands, Williams finished off her tremendous set with a service ace to propel the Panthers to victory.

Even though the Panthers only finished the weekend with one victory, they showed a great deal of promise. The team consistently hit more kills than their competition but were held back by an abundance of errors. As the team gets more experience in matches, these mistakes should be limited and the group will begin to look more like the NCAA Tournament team they were a year ago.

The Panthers will be back on the road next weekend for the Dayton Invitational, where they will take on Iowa State and Dayton. The first match takes place Saturday, Sept. 2 against Iowa State at 1:30 p.m.